Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Message of the Movement

For a long time now Christianity in the West has been viewed as nothing more than a new religious system. Its adherers believe that it is the best, and only good religious system. But, a religious system is a religious system and the Movement of Christ (His Kingdom) is no religion! Jesus did not come to this earth simply to give people a new religion to follow. In fact Jesus came to rid the earth of the current system of religion they were held captive to (Judaism) because it was no longer necessary now that the Kingdom had arrived. Because in Christ's Kingdom everyone has full access to the thrown room of God through the blood of Christ. (Heb 10:19-22)

The problem that we now face today is that some people like religion, and have polluted their discipleship unto Jesus with a bunch of religious filth. It is because of this polluted form of Christianity that we must reclaim the movement expression of God's living church.

There are major differences between viewing the way of Jesus as a movement rather than a religion.

A religion constricts God and the worship of God to a limited time and a limited place.
Movements happen everywhere at anytime. Because they realize that God is everywhere at all times.

Religions are stagnant and do little to evangelize those not a part of their religion. 
Movements are full of passion. Everyone in a movement is active in spreading the message of the movement to others.

Religions are made up of complicated systems, long creeds and complex doctrines. 
Movements are simple, and receive their identity from their message. This identity functions as a catalyst within the movement which launches it forward giving it rapid growth.

In the Jesus Movement our message is what we call the gospel.

The Bible tells us that the gospel is a powerful force. It brings life and light and liberation into this dark world.

Mohandas Gandhi once said:

"You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization to pieces, turn the world upside down , and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of good literature."

When we actually practice living and sharing the gospel of Jesus -the movement of Christ, the Kingdom, explodes in this world! Historians believe that by the year 100 A.D. that there were already 25,000 followers of Christ in the known world. Keep in mind that this group of 25,000 is over 2,000 times the size of the original 12 that it first started with. Historians also say that by the year 310 A.D. that they became 800 times larger and that there were as many as 20,000,000 Christians in the known world!

The question that so many of us now ask is: "how did they do it"? I can tell you this. It wasn't done the way that we often think of doing things in our churches today. There wasn't a special committee or outreach program. They didn't have to make sure their plans fit into the churches budget. They didn't have the luxuries of media that we have today to make it happen. So how did they do it? They did it the same way the first disciples did. They told the message with great boldness in their lives and as a result the Kingdom spread.

In Acts chapter four we find a group of people that are completely sold out on following their risen King. When persecution came their way they immediately turned to prayer. They prayed to God that they might have boldness to tell people the message of the Kingdom of God. They prayed for strength to share with others what was so freely given to them -the Good Life. They prayed for help in spreading God's Kingdom here on earth through the sharing of the gospel.

There were no special tricks. They didn't have any amazing new book that just came out. But they did have all they needed because they had the Spirit of God working through them enabling them to act and will according to God's will and purpose.

The message that they shared with others was simple. It is important that we today share the message of Christ in concise and simple ways. Ways that make sense to everyone and in ways that are easy to remember. Basically the message should be able to "stick" with the person that you shared it with. Some have come to call this the "sticky gospel". When a message is "sticky" it can easily be passed on to others. It is in this way that the message of the Kingdom can explode across the globe with atomic force.

Here are three small messages that I have began sharing with others. Each one in itself tells the gospel story -that the Messiah has come to liberate us. And all three put together give a well shaped picture of Christ's mission which has become our own:
  • Christ The Liberating King Has Come (Galatians 5:1)
  • He Has come to give us Life to the Full (John 10:10)
  • He Has come because of His Love for us (John 3:16)
I have noticed that these small but powerfully informative phrases stick well with people. They are easy to spit out in a conversation with someone about Jesus. They take little explanation and since they come from the Scriptures they can easily lead to more in depth conversations about Jesus by turning right to one of those three verse.

What would happen if we began to share the gospel (both in speech and practice) as they did? I believe that if you do what they did, we will end up getting what they got. And what they got was the Kingdom, right here on earth. (Read Acts 4:13-31 to see how beautiful God's Kingdom spreading looks).

The early Christians were able to allow God to fully take hold of their lives. They loved others with the overflow of their love for God. They knew it wasn't about them -but that it was all about God. May we do the same as we spread God's Kingdom in our world today.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Youth and Family Ministry

It has been a long time since my last post so I thought I would give everyone a quick update on what I have been up to.

My wife Michelle and now live in Mt. Carmel, IL where I now work as the Youth and Family Minister at the Mt. Carmel Church of Christ. I love the church body here! And I really love my role in the congregation because I able to partake in many diverse areas of ministry. My major focus of course is the youth (6-12 graders) but I have also been working on re-envisioning our children's ministry and have been able to help start our small group ministry.

Children's Ministry

Our new children's ministry will launch on the first Sunday of January with the theme S.A.N.D. Explorers. S.A.N.D is an acronym which stands for:
Searching For God In Every Area of My Life
Always Learning More About Him
Never Putting Myself Above Others
Daily Becoming More Like Christ our King

Everything in our children's ministry and bible class program will be orientated around this theme. Our Bible class area will be called the "S.A.N.D Box" (we will soon begin repainting our classroom to make it look like a desert). We will call the kids "S.A.N.D. Explorers" during Bible class. In class the kids receive "S.A.N.D. Dollars" for displaying "S.A.N.D." in their life, reciting memory verses, bringing a friend, and so on.

Small Groups

Since the summer I have been writing teaching outlines for our small groups. Our small group lessons have been based off of the same theme that Bobby Smith (our pulpit minister) preached on on the previous Sunday.  If you are interested in using any of these small group outlines let me know and I would be glad to send them to you. 

Youth Ministry

We have had a lot going on with our teens lately and our group has been growing quite a bit. Our teens have been doing a great job inviting their friends to all of our teen events so we often have just as many visitors attend as we do "members". Here are some of things we have been doing with the teens lately:
  •  We have had the entire high school football team over for breakfast at the church building on one of their game days. For the fist time ever I used American football as an illustration.
  • We have had a couple of Work Days where we helped paint an elderly lady's garage. A man from our church saw this lady painting her garage one day and stopped and offered to help. She was hesitant at first -thinking he was wanting to get payed. He helped her for some time and then the next two weeks a small group from our church returned to finish up the job. It was a great time to show this woman that the economy of the Kingdom is based off of the gift. Out God's love for us we have freely received, and thus out of our love God we freely give! 
  •  I have been going to eat with our teens at their schools. In all, our youth group attends four different schools (two high schools and two middle schools). Each week I try to go eat at at least one of the four schools. The teens have really enjoyed this, and it has been a great way for me to better get to know them and their friends.
  • I have been writing a discipleship book to study with some of our new Christians and not-yet Christians. The book teaches the basics of our faith while also teaching them what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. So far, Michelle and I are using this material to study with one person, and we have just made plans to study with two others, and have been trying to get a hold of a fourth person so that we can set up a time to study with him.
  • Two Sunday's ago we led our high schoolers on a trip to Paducah, KY to see the AIMers. We had a great time spending the day together. It was also really nice to see so many of my old friends in the AIM world.
  • Just this past Friday we had our first ever Fifth Quarter just for Middle Schoolers. Fifth Quarter is a party that is thrown after home football games, usually involving free food lots of fun, games and inflatables. We ended up having 60 kids attend in all!
    The event was a great success largely because so many from our body were passionate about serving the kids in our community. Thank you everyone who helped with this event.
  • Just last week I launched a blog just for our youth and college called "Leaves in The Wind". You'll have to be sure and check it out sometime. You can click on the image above to go to the blog and see pictures from our recent activities.